My Coast Guard
Commentary | Oct. 26, 2021

Do you know a military family without enough to eat regularly? Listen in.

As we head into the holiday season, many of us make plans to socialize with our loved ones over meals. However, we may be unaware that there are military families that cannot make similar arrangements without assistance. According to the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN), food insecurity exists for some military families, meaning they do not have consistent food access for every person in their household to be healthy and active.

Please join the Wellness Wednesday discussion, Oct. 27, at 3 p.m., with research director, Dr. Shelley Kimball, and Delia Johnson, a social justice advocate, both from the MFAN. They will discuss the avoidable reality of food insecurity, and how to ensure no one goes hungry, especially those who live in service to others. The discussion will be held on CG Teams

The Military Family Advisory Network esteems itself as an authentic voice of the modern military family and connects military families to resources, people, and information they depend on to successfully navigate all phases of military life. Through polling thousands of military families, they provide trusted research with the goal of improving services and outcomes for military families. 

“We believe strongly that talking about the realities of food struggles makes it more likely people will seek assistance,” explained Kimball. 

The MFAN integrates the USDA’s Six-Item Short Form Food Security Scale into their surveys and research. It is a standardized way to understand the kinds of food support experiences families face. The more questions someone answers affirmatively, the more challenging their circumstances.

Although there are many experiencing extreme predicaments, there are many reasons why these families do not seek help. “We take pride in our strength and resilience, and it is hard to reach out for help. Additionally, there are a lot of worries that struggling in this way will affect the active duty member’s career, so whether or not that is true, families are nervous about it.” said Kimball.

Johnson added, “If a family is worried about putting food on their table, they may be experiencing loneliness, defeat, or embarrassment that they are unable to provide for their family. Asking for help in this situation, whether you are a military family or not, takes great courage and can be incredibly difficult.”

The pair shared how coworkers, friends, and family members could be most helpful through offering general support and not on not on identifying if specific military families are in need. “I think it’s not so much trying to determine if someone is experiencing food insecurity, so much as making an effort to be kind, supportive, and helpful to your neighbors and community whether you know their situation or not. When there is a local food drive—donate. When there is a coat drive—pull out that coat in the back of the closet. When they are collecting toys around the holidays—buy one for a family in need. A neighbor may not be comfortable sharing their situation with you, but they could be comfortable accessing services in your community,” said Kimball. 

Many organizations, including the Coast Guard, routinely collect resources and share them with those lacking. Johnson suggests that a concerned person, “Take the time to learn the resources in your community for food support and share them widely through your communication channels (e.g. work Facebook groups, emails, bulletin boards in the lunchroom, etc.). Those in need will know where to turn for support and trust that their leaders are concerned for them and are there to help if they are ready to ask for help.”
 
Johnson summarized the intent of the discussion by stating, “Talking about how prevalent this issue is, is important so that families know they are not alone in this experience. Hopefully it will become easier for those who need assistance to feel comfortable reaching out for help.”

Wellness Wednesday is being hosted on CG Teams. You will only be able to access this forum from a Coast Guard workstation or you could call in via the following number: 410-874-6742, Conference ID: 600 234 437#. If you have questions or suggestions, you may e-mail us at wellnesswednesday@uscg.mil. Previous Wellness Wednesday recordings are available on the CG-11, CG Portal webpage.